Top 11 Summer Albums, 2011 Edition

24 Jul

It’s more than halfway through 2011, so it’s time for another annual rundown of my favorite albums so far this year. My top 12 summer albums of 2010 has been one of my blog’s most popular posts. While Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj all grace my iTunes library, I have a strong proclivity for indie rock. So please note that this does not intend to be a definitive list of any kind–there are plenty of lists from PitchforkNPR, and other music sites–it simply represents albums released this year that I think are great and may be under the mainstream radar.

The Fool, Warpaint

I saw Warpaint at Coachella this year and their set absolutely blew me away. Reminiscent of the xx, Warpaint is an all-female indie band from LA whose sound is hypnotic, post-punk and ethereal. Their live set was the epitome of confident cool. Absolutely love this album.

Burst Apart, The Antlers

Part of the Brooklyn indie rock scene, the sound of which can all start to blend together after a while, I find myself listening to The Antlers’ Burst Apart again and again. It’s sad, lonely, and nocturnal (to steal one of Pitchfork’s descriptions), but also romantic and low-key. “Putting the Dog To Sleep” is a particular favorite.

Zonoscope, Cut Copy

I am grateful for my brother for introducing me to this Australian dance-rock band that’s a bit more rock than Hot Chip and a bit less ethereal Radiohead, though reminiscent of both. I’m so sad that I missed Cut Copy at both Coachella and Pitchfork this year. Coachella had one of those horrible scheduling issues where I had to choose between them and The Black Keys. “Take Me Over” is a great throwback to the 80s, which I always appreciate. Fun and upbeat. One day I’ll see them live.

Rome, Danger Mouse & Daniele Luppi

What do you get when you combine a progressive music producer (Danger Mouse = Jay-Z’s The Grey Album, Gnarls Barkley, The Shins), an Italian composer (Luppi), Norah Jones’s haunting voice and Jack White’s demanding presence? A movie soundtrack without a movie—a musical labor of love, five years in the making, inspired by 1960s spaghetti western films. An awesome album that makes any road trip eerie, any situation intimate, any mainstream album sound shallow.

Bon Iver, Bon Iver

I had avoided Bon Iver’s first album. The idea of a broken hearted guy retreating to a cabin in Wisconsin to record music alone seemed way too depressing to broach. After hearing Bon Iver, Justin Vernon’s absolutely gorgeous sophomore effort, I understand how and why he was so inspired by the remoteness of his home state. Pitchfork calls it “experimental rustic chamber pop”. Sadness, loneliness, intimacy and emotional agony never sounded so awesome. I would like to meet a guy who’s this in touch with his feelings (deep, but not cheesy).

Belong, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

I also missed Pains of Being Pure at Heart at Coachella this year. WTF is wrong with me? This album is 90s alternative rock brought to the 21st indie century.

James Blake, James Blake

I don’t love dubstep, but I sure love James Blake’s interpretation of it. I listened to the CMYK EP before his self-titled debut and found myself dancing around my apartment (which I’m not shy about since I know everyone does it…right)? At times slow and romantic, at times upbeat with R&B influences, Blake is a welcome addition from across the pond. He proves club music doesn’t have to be annoying.

Kaputt, Destroyer

I’m a sucker for a good sax riff. (That’s sax…). Destroyer’s Kaputt is a smooth jazz, lite rock hybrid that’s actually cool. They make late 1970s/early 1980s sound new again.

Jet Set Siempre 1°, Clive Tanaka Y Su Orquestra

I heard about Clive Tanaka on Sound Opinion’s awesome podcast. Originally available through his website only on cassette tape, which is now totally cool since the medium is defunct, those people in-the-know loved it so much they made the album digitally available. I’m partial to Side A “For Dance” more than Side B “For Romance,” especially because of the 70s disco and 80s synth pop references. But I appreciate the compartmentalization of moods, especially from a dance underground album.

21, Adele

This is the most mainstream album on my list. I absolutely adore Adele (and alliteration). I love her big girl-ness, her big neo-soul voice, her making vengeance on ex-boyfriends fun. Unlike other female pop artists today, who seem to create music based on what they think people want, Adele stays true to her strengths. That said, 21 was more overproduced than 19, which overall I liked better. She’s a true woman in a sea of girls.

Yuck, Yuck

Yuck is a last minute addition since I just listened to their album a few days before composing this blog post. The London-based group’s name is ironically enticing. From top to bottom, this album is a total throwback to the 1990s. More guitar-heavy than Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Yuck distinctly reminds me of Smashing Pumpkins.

What are your thoughts on my choices? Any recommendations for music I should check out? Let me know!

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